Yesterday’s capitulation can be looked at as a once off with exacerbating circumstances - no pre-season match practice for 13 of the players, losing Myers in first few minutes - and those circumstances are true looked at in isolation.
But yesterday’s capitulation was something - conceding large, seemingly match-winning leads, that has dangerously crept into our game since the beginning of last year as follows:
Round 1, 2014 versus North. Win by 39 points:
- we kick the first 4 goals and look superb leading by 24 points 12:14 in Q1. Yet, almost exactly one quarter later we trail by a 1 point at 12:21 in Q2. We work our way back on top and finally win by 39 points. We are dominating the game in Q4, with massively more possessions than North yet struggle to be much more than 4 goals in fron until the last 10 minutes of the game. We dominate Clearances 52-30 and Contest Possession (CP) 154-110. The win should have been closer to 80 points+ with that type of domination.
Round 5 , 2014 versus St.Kilda. Lose by 16 points after being 18 points up at quarter time:
- we look dominant against a young and very ordinary Saints team who waste what few chances they have, leading 5.0 to 1.6 at quarter time. After this time we play terrible, slow, sideways football and end up kicking only 4.11 in the last 3 quarters, losing eventually by 16 points, being outscored by one of the worst teams in the comp by 34 points in the last 3 quarters. We still win Clearances 34-30 and CP 122-120, Tackles 52-46 & other stats quite similar. One of the very, very few games where a team that wins Clearances, CP & Tackles actually loses the game.
Round 6, 2014 (Anzac Day) versus Collingwood. Lose by 23 points after leading by 37 points 2 minutes into Q2:
- again, we look outstanding for one and a bit quarters leading 6.4 to 0.4 7:39 into Q2. We get steam rolled shortly thereafter, remarkably being level at halftime and not kicking a goal again until early in Q4. We end up kicking 2.8 in just under 3 quarters of football after being 6.4 at 2:09 in Q2. We have 27 more possession over all and dominate Clearances 49-39 but lose CP 153-148 and Tackles 98-81. Collingwood only kick 83 points for the game, 2 more than the Saints kicked the previous week. It is a mediocre score, yet we lose.
Round 7, 2014 versus WB. Win by 8 points after leading by 18 points 11:05 into Q1:
- again, a very bright opening and we lead 19-1 11:05 into Q1. More slow, sideways ball movement. We do not kick another goal until early in Q3 just prior to which we are trailing 25-38. A young, struggling Bulldogs outfit kick 5 goals to none in the meantime; highlighting a 31 point turnaround. We eventually get back on top in Q3 and a solitary goal in a tense last quarter sees us home by 8 points, 73-65. After that bright opening we 7.10. We have 43 less possessions overall; losing clearances 34-37 and CP by a staggering 117-135. Importantly, we win the Tackle count 59-49. We played almost as poorly as we did against the Saints, but this time we get out of jail.
Round 8, 2014 versus BL. Hang on to win by 8 points after leading by 20 points late in Q2:
- Brisbane start well but a 5 goal run from just before qtr time sees us leading by 20 points (40-20), 20:08 unto Q2. From this point we go missing as Brisbane kick the next 4 goals of the game until we kick our next goal late in Q3 to regain the lead 50-47. Brisbane goal again and lead at 3 qtr time. We kick the only 2 goals in a tense last qtr winning 9.11 to 8.9, having only kicked 3.7 after achieving a 20 point in Q2. We win the overall disposal count (more sideways, backwards ball use) by 27, 408-381. We also win Clearances 39-32 but get clobbered in CP 130-117. Importantly we win the Tackle count decisively 74-53. Watson, Goddard, Heppell all prominent, yet we only just win against a very average side.
Round 12, 2014 versus GWS. Steady to win by 16 points after coughing up a 20 point lead in Q3:
- we look the better team all night and finally get to a 20 point lead (50-30) 6:32 into Q3. Yet, 11:46 into Q4 we only lead by a single point, 60-59, after a trio of GWS goals in very quick succession. We steady, kicking the next 3 goals gradually and win eventually 81-66. GWS have slightly more possessions overall but we win Clearances 37-31, CP 143-129 and halve tackles 62-62.
Round 13, 2014 versus Melbourne. Lose by a single point after dominating the game and leading by 33 points early in Q3:
- a game that even Paul Roos said we should have won by 70-80 points. We are dominate everywhere but wasteful; throwing away a 33 point lead 3:35 in Q3, and allow a shocking Melbourne team to kick 8 of the 9 next goals to grab an 8 point lead midway through Q4 (Bellchambers missed a sitter early in Q4). Back to back Zaka goals (to cap a superb game) regains the lead but we manage to lose anyway 78-77. We comfortably win the overall possession count 369-352. We dominate Clearances 40-26, CP 151-119 and Tackles 83-74. I50’s are a staggering 69-36 in our favour. Even worse than the Saints performance. Like that game, another rare game when the team that wins all three of Clearances, CP & Tackles - significantly in this case - loses the game.
Round 14, 2014 versus Adelaide. Hang on to win by 9 points after leading by 36 points midway Q3:
- we start superbly and get out out to 30+ point leads multiple time, leading by 36 points 15:01 into Q3. Adelaide then quickly ram on the next 5 goals and Jenkins is causing us huge problems, finishing game with a PB of 5. We steady, kick some excellent goals and get back to a 27 point lead 9:39 into Q4 but Adelaide keep coming and we struggle to close the game out or really put them to sword. We do enough to hang on and win by 9 points, 101-92. Overall possessions are almost line ball at 376-377 but we lose Clearances (Watson now sidelined) 35-39 and CP 139-147. Importantly we win the Tackle count 58-54. We also win I50s, 57-51.
Round 16, 2014 versus Port. Hang on to win by 2 points after leading by 24 points midway through Q3:
- play some great football in a low scoring slog-fest at Adelaide Oval. Collier misses a simple set shot to have us leading by 24 points, 53-29 15:44 into Q3. Port then start to get on top and edge within 2 points during the last until a superb Heppell goal gives the breathing space we need before the inevitable charity decision gifts Port a goal right near the end and we hang on to win by 2 points, 62-60. Port end up belting us in over all possessions 374-322, Clearances 42-36 and CP 160-143. Importantly, our pressure is superb and we dominate the Tackle count 96-62.
Round 23, 2014 versus Carlton. Draw (90-90) after we lead by 30 points 12 minutes into Q3:
- a bizarre game where we go in with only 2 tall defenders, gifting a hack like Matthew Watson 4 goals in a PB for him. We are asleep early and are a long way down in Q1 but then dominate the next 40 minutes to lead 76-46, 12:20 into Q3. We have missed goals we should have kicked but are in complete control. A terrible Baguley turnover at CHB seems to open the floodgates for the Blues and they start to come back. We only kick 2 goals for the rest of the game and are lucky to hang on for a draw to be honest with Carlton in complete control by the end. We win overall possessions comfortably 356-335. Blues win Clearances 38-33 but we win CP decisively 128-114. Blues win the Tackle count in a low intensity game 56-51.
Elimination Final, 2014 versus North. We lose by 12 points after dominating and leading by 33 points early in Q3:
- we, and JD, start the game on fire but JD is a little wayward. Watson back but not kicking the ball. We are wasteful but dominant and North look lost in Q2 going backwards and sideays, remaining goalless that qtr. Yet, for all our dominance, we have only kicked 6 goals to halftime. A Chapman goal early in Q3 has us totally ascendant leading by 33 points with North having only kicked 2 goals to this point (sound familiar?). A Myers pass to CHF sees Goddard & Watson leave it for each other, the ball is swept away and suddenly North are running free towards goals and scoring at will. We now start to get belted around the stoppages with their sweeper at the back of the stoppage setting them up time and time again. Eventually, they win enough ball to easily win by 2 goals, 93-81. We end up just losing Clearances (after earlier dominating) 37-36, but win both CP (just) 141-138 and Tackles 64-57. Not as bad as the Saints & Demons losses, but close.
Round 1, 2015 versus Sydney. We lose by 12 points after leading by 41 points late in Q3 and remaining scoreless thereafter whilst Swans pile on 8 goals:
- this one is still raw. In conditions that suit the home team to a tee we do a number on them early at their own game but stop to a walk and get overrun. Extenuating circumstances with interrupted pre-season and losing Myers very early. Players who were very good early start making skill/decision errors as a combination of fatigue and panic set in: Goddard, Colyer, Melksham. Daniher spends most of the game knocking the ball on in marking contests as he is being double-teamed as we play an extra at the stoppage and Swans play their spare back. Despite our early dominance, Sydney end up having 35 more possessions including 26 more CP. We win the Clearances slightly (57-53) and Tackles slightly more (77-71). The higher than usual Clearance and Tackle count are indicative of what a physical game Sydney likes playing and we cannot go with them the whole way; at least not with the extenuating circumstances we faced.
Sit back and think about it. 5 games where we have given up 30+ points leads for losses and a draw across 24 games: Collingwood (Anzac Day), Melbourne, Carlton, Nth Melb, Sydney. The latter two particularly galling as our good & very good opposition had only kicked 2 goals themselves to some point in Q3 and yet each won easily in the end by 12 points, running away.
Another game, against the Saints, where we lead by 18 points and lost by 16 despite winning the 3 most important stat indicators there are.
A clutch of other games where we have given up anything from an 18-30+ point lead and end up grinding out wins.
(Note that there are two games where we go on and have 50 point + wins in this period: Richmond (first time we played them & Collingwood (late in the year)).
So, we have lost/drawn 6 games when in seemingly winning positions out of 24. We win another 6 games after coughing up match winning leads but get back and win out of 24. We only go on and have the winning margins we should in 2 games.
Alternatively, we have set ourselves up for convincing wins in 58% of our last 24 games yet have only won convincing in 8% of these games and much less convincingly in 25% of these games. We “lose the unloseable” in a staggering 25% of these games.
Houston, we have a problem. A bad situation that keeps repeating isn’t bad luck, it’s bad football pure & simple.
In my view these are the problems we have to rectify based on observations of all the above:
The game plan is flawed. The best teams - read Hawthorn, Sydney, Geelong - don’t play an extra at the stoppage. If the opposition does, they play their spare behind the ball down back - Brian Lake/Harris won a Norm Smith doing this as the Hawks won a flag. We are one of the few teams that insists on playing an extra at the stoppage. Yesterday was a classic example. We might win the Clearance stat but it leaves young, KP forwards, like Daniher & Carlisle continually having to beat an extra defender as the pressure from the opposition means the ball is not delivered expertly. This happened all game. How often did you see a spare assist Hurley against Franklin yesterday? Not once did I see it. Hurley was left to battle the most destructive KP forward in the game 1:1 (when Goddard, then Carlisle were sent back in Q4 it was as general spares) and did a herculean job. Did you ever really notice our extra at the stoppage? I didn’t. But I certainly noticed the Sydney spare double-teaming Daniher all game. The problem is exacerbated as Daniher is still 2+ years from having a power body to take on multiple KP defenders at once. Hird’s game plan almost ensures Daniher & Carlisle will struggle in big games as big games generally have higher stoppage and tackle counts meaning the ball does not come cleanly or quickly into the forward line anyway. Hird said this week he doesn’t know if he’ll make a good coach. Well he won’t if he persists with this game plan as it doesn’t work. The stats prove it. The game plans of the best teams prove it. Yesterday proved it. The spare back is the #1 reason why scoring is much lower the last couple of years than previously.
Mental stamina. This one I believe will correct itself gradually over the season. You only have so much mental strength. The players have been using vast reservoirs of it off the field staying unbelievably strong in the face of the ASADA saga, leaving little in reserve for match day. As the saga draws to a close now (regardless of ASADA appealing) the players will start to release more & more mental stamina for game day.
Lack of X Factor. Team selection looks too “meat & potatoes” to me. In Q4 we badly needed a Dempsey, Edwards, McKenna (when he is ready) type to take the game on and run the lines and excite & energise their teammates. We have virtually eliminated that type of player from team selection. We need one of these types playing every week, especially as a sub to provide spark if the tide is turning late in Q3/early Q4 as it seems too in so many of these losses. Again, this is a test for Hird the coach. He needs to be play less safe at team selection and seek to inject a game changer in the 22 every week; if nothing else than for insurance when the game plan is not working (which is often as the stats indicate).
Apologies for the long post. But we cannot allow ourselves to become comfortable with “heroic” losses when they happen so often from seemingly unloseable positions.
Something has to change and it has to change quickly, around game plan and team selection, if we are to drive deep into September.